Monday, August 04, 2014


Judging by my cucumbers, the monkeys have changed their accounting standard.

Back in the glory days, their standard was to crash my garden, snatch and eat whatever they could on the spot or grab whatever they could carry, run a safe distance, eat the haul, come back for more, if any, then keep doing that until it was all gone or I was still throwing rocks. A simple standard, suited to the mountain forest lowlifestyle.

But civilization has been encroaching, as it tends to do. Historically, the same thing has happened to pirates, highwaymen, Wall Street and other forms of human brigandage, though there are signs that those changes are unraveling. On the simian side, the old standard worked well for the beasts during the good-time years, when I was planting rows of onions for them, I was planting rows of their potatoes, I was planting walls of tomatoes and cucumbers out of boundless admiration for my simian overlords, lots of everything for them, even sweet potatoes, guy from the city, and different varieties of it all, various squashes, even got blueberries, plums and loquats in there, not to mention 2 kinds of gourmet mushrooms, which the chompers really love.

Over the years, as they stole from me, I learned from them. Which was easier than with humans, because owing to certain cortical limitations, as well as social customs, e.g., no pockets, no briefcases, no banks, no Wall Street equivalent, my simian colleagues have evolved only a primitive form of greed, known locally as "paws and jaws," a concept familiar to monkey accountants, but seldom seen in human society other than in derivative markets, where it is referred to as "hand over fist."

For my part in this ever ongoing battle of ethics, I regained my old pitching eye and arm, did what else I could: I gathered rocks and stashed them strategically, put up a fence and gradually stopped planting the types of things that monkeys like, because it's difficult to grow that kind of stuff to fruition anyway, but to then have it consumed by thankless creatures... In time, I got almost as crafty as a monkey; the only thing that held me back was my job.

Despite that handicap, my efforts seem to have pressured the monkeys into changes of their own. I’m hearing more and more that the hairy marauders have started raiding gardens down in the village, which they never used to do. (I'm publishing this only in English.) "You can only get onions were there are onions!" is now major monkey dogma; same rule for potatoes, zucchinis etc.

So lately I've been noticing changes, like the other day - and then again today - I found a ready-to-harvest cucumber hanging among other similarly ready cucumbers, but with only ⅓ of it bitten off by patently monkey teeth, leaving nearly 67% for yours truly. A pretty high vig if you ask me, but it was only one cucumber, and if you also ask me "Is your take better than 0%," I have to say yes. Sooner or later, though, I must consult with my arboreal neighbors, person-to-ape, in mutual frankness, so I can make them an offer they can't refuse.

I also recommend that a human version of my SFD program (Stones, Fences, Deprivation) be tried on Wall Street.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Anybody who still believes that crows don’t swear was definitely not in bed with me this morning. I was there, though, savoring the peaceful ambiance of a morning dream until it was shattered by a long, loud repetition of America’s most popular curse word, coming from a high branch of the chestnut tree. It's a term not much used out here in the Japanese countryside; it's mostly used in the big cities, where it has far more utility. I recognized the word at once, even though it was in Crow.

It had to be Young Crow. He probably picked the word up while strutting in the chestnut tree waiting for his mother to feed him, while I was down below, splitting knotty oak. (It has to be knotty to get a good swearstream going.) Crows are excellent mimics; they also use tools, and words are tools, so need I say more. Come to think of it, Young Crow must be the only crow in Japan that really nails the rhythmic and tonal niceties of the term. Lacking lips, he can’t quite get the F, but the enunciation is close enough to be effective, especially at that volume.

And in a bird so young! Until recently he'd been a big mama’s boy, strutting local summits like the chestnut tree, complaining about his hunger and lengthy solitude, calling over and over to his mama for more more more food, which she fetched to him as quickly as she could, back and forth from the vast larder that is my garden and its neighborhood, while she - much smaller than chubbyboy - got thinner and thinner as her tubby darling scarfed the general vicinity. Now he was grown enough to finally be on his own, and he was not pleased with the new arrangement.

On and on and on he went, cursing at all the ground around, much as my boss and later my drill sergeant used to do, and with nearly the same sharp and steady rhythm. I’d never heard any crow do this before, no matter what age or mood. It was damn impressive, I must say. And in a bird so young!  Just confirms my long-held belief that cursing is an elemental drive.

Young crow has got his own life to live now, in any case, and should be given the chance to tarnish it a bit, just as we humans do, take some of the glare off. As the more experienced party, though, I'd advise the lad to spend more time on his delivery and, over the years, be sure add a bit more salt.

Life does have its needs.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Wild pig invades property, ravages nothing in particular: “Just for fun of it” 
  • Leaves filling culvert and accumulating on roadside await attention 
  • Hornets nearly the size of  your hand invade carpenter bee nest in front eave; aftermath recalls Punic Wars 
  • Crow stops using chestnut tree outside upstairs bedroom window for nationwide dawn announcements 
  • Garden growing feral, organizing; home committee shorthanded, indecisive 
  • Deer enjoys nightly snack of beautiful pumpkin leaves growing in all directions from compost pit outside garden fence; “succulent blossoms a special treat” 
  • Fall of deceased oak awaited, chestnut going piece by piece 
  • Green wheelbarrow with yellow handles full of broken garden pots; mental committee allegedly forming 
  • Cherry limb that should have been trimmed a long time ago now popular woodpecker resort 
  • Uncleaned rain gutter bitches and moans even in light rain 
  • Brady hears loudest thunder in his life, in clear midday, right outside house; suspects unilateral attempt at stimulus 
  • Mushroom logs confused by weather have no idea where they are 
  • Anonymous midsized bird begins enjoying Brady cucumbers 
  • Water pressure falls unexpectedly one morning for no reason 
  • Generous village neighbor leaves some of her surplus sweet onions beside our door 
  • Local farmers visit upmountain paddies now and then  
  • All calm as rice grows 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Well, the Quartet left for the States this morning, and this afternoon in the bleak of my mood, which was bleakening by the minute as I stayed indoors amidst years of signs of the presence of grandchildren and thought about things for which thinking is of no use, I decided it might be better to go outside into the garden and do some needful overdues, engage in some activity that could at least have the effect of putting my mind's foot down elsewhere than on my own neck.

So I put on my work duds and went outside, opened the garden gate in all forthrightness and entered that green dominion, stood there looking around with suitably humble authority, chucked a few too-long-ignored plants under the chin and in return received the worst visual scolding I've ever gotten from a garden.

Some pretty nasty vegetal syntax out there-- bean and pepper sarcasm, cuke and goya irony right on down the untended rows. Given their passive and vulnerable nature, vegetables can be pretty ruthless when given a chance to lash out; naturally, they're gonna give it all they've got. Fortunately, the grandies had left the country, so they didn't have to experience this, not that neglected gardens are all that restrained in California. I did have an excuse, though, sort of - over the past few weeks there's been so much going on in my own life that required my time, focus and energy - but full-time, hardworking produce has little sympathy for the problems of absentee humans.

The peppers were covered with weevils to an extent that agri-bureaucrats could call abusive; the favas had toppled into yellow tangles of no return; the tomatoes - mainly a distraction for monkeys - were plunging into lowlife with abandon and the climbing beans had that rebellious attitude I remember from high school. Neglected lettuce as well can be pretty damned ungrateful. The only satisfied plants were the luxuriating weeds and the stately fennel, which needs no one to maintain or affirm its beauty. The Andean potatoes as well were brightleaved and thriving at this luxurious altitude. The overall picture, however, was not a pretty one.

I went around doing what I could for the survivors: clearing some space, weeding, thinning-- more sunlight here, a bit of support there, a little encouragement over here and so on, but they knew my heart wasn't in it, I could sense it in their attitude - you know the way vegetables can get - they knew that next year things would be even more different: only two mouths to feed and fewer hands to plant and weed and care, no new hearts to laugh and be amazed at all the surprises that can stem from seed into beauty, no more shared delights of the spirit, spread out over summers like there used to be...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Lotsa stuff going on, small stuff under the circs-- like the monkeys got all my biwa (loquats), what's new; I just took too long to get to them myself. Been meaning to post about the daily this and that but there's too much and too many types of bigger goings on, primary among them the fact that Kasumi and Trio are moving out of their apartment three years after moving here from up north right after the Fukushima disaster that set all this in motion.

The Quartet is now staying with us for the week of finalizing before moving on to California to start new lives there, so it's the beginning to an end of sorts for us as well; we'll now have less need for this big house, garden, firewoods... Uberdecisions must be considered; it's like I'm 25 again, but a few decades hopefully wiser... Hmmm...

This caught me short, I must admit; I'd been unaware of leaning so hard on the past, less toward the delight in things that come from tomorrow like light to the eye... But for the grandies themselves, whom I have seen grow to this loveliness, now will go on without end, just as it once would for me...

Once I did what they are doing: departed for but a mere spell of time - when I had so much of it - without need for a long glance back, since I would be returning before much time had gone-- and then one day, a moment ago was a lifetime away, and I learned that a heart could grow so large, hold dear so many worlds, and not quite fall to pieces...

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Being among kids is great for the joy supply, since kids can generate joy like oceans generate waves. When they’re infants, they can distill joy right out of the air, just by lying there and looking around. As they get older though, the process gets complicated by the many and various artificial joys that now await us all at birth. 

By the time modern infants are fully grown, they have encountered most of the complex array of add-ons that comprise civilized life nowadays, and if they have been so inclined - and so permitted - they have learned to look out, learned what to look out for, learned to be selective in their joys.  They know by now that natural joy is unalloyed.

Artificial joy can be fun - it can be fast, sweet and intoxicating - but being volatile and otherwise unstable, sooner or later it vaporizes or decays, often leaving a sticky, troublesome residue. If, out of one habit or another, your life tends more and more in that direction, the gooey result can in time leave you with a frown beyond understanding.

One big trick in modern life is to hold on to, honor and maintain the continuous you, your living source of pure joy, the kind you were born with, that smiled you as an infant.

Monday, June 09, 2014

JOURNAL ENTRY, December 2007

Yesterday Kaya and I went out to trim the plum tree. I got the ladder, saws and pruning shears; Kaya, nearly 7, likes the wheelbarrow, so she was in charge of that. The plan was, as I trimmed the small branches from the plum tree, Kaya would take them, clip them down to manageable size and put them in the wheelbarrow; when it was full, she would wheel the twigs over to the garden and dump them beside the compost pile.

So there we were-- I up on the ladder among the bare plum branches and Kaya standing beside the wheelbarrow with everything -- ready to go, but it seemed to seem to Kaya that something wasn't quite right, some essential was missing -- she realized what it was, ran into the house and came back out a few seconds later carrying her toy mouse, which she placed just where it belonged in the wheelbarrow. Now everything was ready.

But all plans carry seeds of change. As Kaya was doing her part with the plum twigs, she suddenly had an even better idea than our original one: she began to use the just-right pieces to build a fine house in the wheelbarrow for her mouse to live in, using the larger twigs for the frame and the smaller ones for the roof, with some nice roundish green leaves as shingles against the rain and snow, and who was I to object, from such a way-up-in-a-plum-tree perspective? From my view as material supplier, though the process was slowed by this radical redirection, the new architecture was attractive and functional. When the structure was completed it was getting dark, the plum tree had been trimmed - a little bit, anyway - the mouse was snug in the aptly named Wheelbarrow Mousehouse and it was time for night.

We're always asking heaven for more time, aren't we-- and there it is in front of us all along, right where we wanted it.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


All the deep, true feeling that kids feel fully and naturally when they go into a forest, to any wild place: it is a wild feeling, true and familiar as hunger. It elicits the heights of spirit, for above all it is holy. It embodies the sacred. We know this in our natural selves.

For what is holy is the wild; what we call our spirit is the wild in us. Even our cultural manifestations are wild and earnest yearnings to bring the wild into social presence, such as for community, companionship, progeny and fulfillment; the cultural trappings, from creative to monolithic, are collective efforts to organize and externalize the fruits of wild passion...

All these things are there in force each I time go into the forest around, the mountains above, even into my garden, and there behold leaves pushing bright up from the dark plain ground, stems reaching, reachers climbing toward the sun of their own desire, sprouts pushing up and seeking their inborn heights in power and nourishment they spin from nothing but earth and its companions...

What could be closer than these things to the true yearnings of the heart, that beats its solo rhythm in this world, that like ourselves stems directly from the source, that is no citizen, needs no passport, depends upon no government... Like the seeds, we are each our own, self contained, accepting no more than we surrender.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


I grew up with books themselves, which impart a physical aspect of knowledge that never leaves you, of choosing, holding and using books, a mind fed by books with the heft of pages turned by hand and dog-eared with book-learning, if you can get that anymore, which seems to be less and less likely the longer I live; you can see it in the oncoming verbiage, so much of which is undergrowth...

That's how it felt when the other day I was wording on the computer, where I now mostly always handle words - workwise, not creativitywise - only now and then eccentrically making notes out in the infrastructural wilds, scribing cursive with pen and ink on paper, like a caveman sparking fire with stones in a cave in winter.

Anyway, I was working via ratatatty keyboard from words written in penbase, when I had to use an online e-thesaurus that had been developed to serve the TLDR mentality that is sponging through young minds of today, so the word that I knew from pen- and-book-based experience, but could not call immediately to mind - a problem Roget also had - was not in the e-thesaurus, even though I scrolled all the way to the bottom of the web page and then left-clicked through all the Nexts. 

So at a virtual impasse, leaning backward in real time I reached over the keyboard and my actual desktop to my actual bookshelf, and grabbed my trusty old Roget's. It was heavy with reality, tatty from so many wrestles with meaning over the years , but it was a way of life that my hands knew well: they were old friends, those pages and my fingers, met again and delighting in the encounter, romping together through those magic fields of hard-copy intelligence.

My fingers knew it to the roots, how to leaf at the back, to get to... right... about... there: the Rs, without even looking, the soft, well-used, hand-familiar pages feathering open in that always pleasant way, somewhere near or even at my objective, and I found my word, for it had been a common word, not too long ago, my finger expertly scanning down the long list of nuance to the desired meaning...  

They really knew and used words when they made this book, and they knew who they were serving; this was before words were handled like allegedly southern-fried alleged chicken allegedly from Kentucky... This was like walking through a meadow of meaning spun from all the mind by the sun of creativity, alive in all ways and as rich with ancient understanding as a wild strawberry...

Then back to the pixel plasma, even more aware of what is waning as we change focus, turn our eyes away... 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Despite what whoever else thinks about spinach may think, spinach has its own life purpose, if only an evolutionary one, and it deserves to fulfill that purpose whenever possible, is my humble opinion, especially since I planted so much of the stuff and nobody here is eating much spinach this year, other than me doing my best, which explains this greenish tint. 

Our weird Spring weather is too chilly for daily family salads and anyway there's only two of us living here now, so it must've been in a spell of zombie gardening that I planted a lot of greens, out of habit acquired from years of more mouths to feed, as I'm sure happens to empty-nester gardeners all over the world, we are united  in this are we not, though no one at the forums ever talks about this type of overabundance; there should be an international distribution system for surplus vegetables. 

In any case it's not easy to rationalize all that succulent, flavorful and nourishing vegetation growing so high and leafing out with abandon, gaining fiber in the natural process of going to seed (a noble idiom, wasted on humans), which is what spinach originally evolved to do and has never forgotten how to do; and now, for the first time in who knows how long - no one I know keeps track of these things - some righteous spinach is getting a chance to go all the way, so who am I to put my foot down? 

Yes, who am I to tell a nourishing vegetable friend what to do-- or even more hubristically, cut a beautiful and licentious plant into compost simply because it's useless to me and is interfering with the artificial comfort parameters of my life, such as what will my gardening neighbors think of me for letting this happen (an interesting variation on Veblen's concept of conspicuous non-consumption, btw), for letting spinach walk all over me as it were, and for not tastefully maintaining my spinach bed. There seems to be a moral aspect trying to assert itself in here somewhere...

Speaking frankly, though, I have never seen spinach have so much fun, or look so wanton and passionate with life, so-- fulfilled in its true mission, spelling itself out in max green leaves on rising ruby stems and the beginnings of seeds; it's almost erotic, except it's a plant, so nothing goes on actionwise other than slow intense growth and general vegetative lasciviousness, which I suppose could be arousing to a more passionate gardener. Nothing salacious, though; it's not like Caligula or anything. Still, what are the neighbors thinking of all this verdant intimacy? No one has said a thing yet... 

Not to be all that be humble, but I here and now assert my wish to not have, an eon or more hence, a plaque of thanks in the Leafy Hall of Fame, when Spinach descendants gratefully and capably rule the world... 

It was nothing, really.

Monday, May 26, 2014


I was in LA for an hour or so this morning; glad to be back on a mountainside in rural Japan, I realized, as I stepped out onto the deck into cool air and birdsong, summer green on every side except for the ice blue of the Lake down there, dotted with green islands beneath tomorrow’s LA sky. A little bit of the traveler’s singular homesickness left me. 

I’d spent that earlier time googlemapping my way around several nice areas in LA, looking for places where I'd spent some time in my travels, but those old places were gone; they’re all new places now. I also wandered among areas where Kasumi and Krew are soon going to be living and moving around in for varying lengths of time, starting this summer and beyond, depending on the ultimate selection of scenarios...

Those sunbaked neighborhoods were generally pleasant, tranquil below their palm trees as I moved like a ghost along their streets and walkways, but to the me of now they were no longer places where I would reside... no people on the streets, just cars (Nobody Walks in LA, as the Missing Persons still sing so well), it all had that daytime noir feeling Chandler captured to classic effect in his scenes-- wonderful to remember, electric history, great to visit but not my place to live anymore...

My head was still in those places when I stepped out through the kitchen doorway onto the deck and found myself returned to this forested mountain with cool air and birdsong, summer green on every side except where the Big Lake is ice blue. Glad to be back.

Thanks for that, LA. You’re a fine, fine lady at night, though.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


The rice is all planted, the grandmas are out in the paddies, planting the green shoots by hand in places the machines missed, and likely recalling the unbelievable ago, when entire mountainsides were planted by hand.

Out in the same morning, watering some seedling flats, I am inspired with the fragrance of the blooming lilac and swirled into my own past, just standing there; it makes a tree of me.

There is love in the scent of lilacs; a sweet perfume that knew me kindly, long before I came to be. I get to enjoy Springly nuances from other vegetation as well, the way life moves with chlorophyll. They speak in their own quiet languages, but we communicate; we definitely communicate.

I have learned how important water is to ginger; turnips also request water at certain times, kohlrabi is fussy about the tenderness of the soil, broccoli and pepper have opinions about temperature, and so on. In their gentle way, they help diminish the number of things I'm not sure of.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's the work of a lifetime 
to find the treasures 
we were born with 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Here at the end of an overcast day of digging, raking, garden-readying, cleaning after the wind stampede, gathering windfall branches for this Winter's years kindling, amplifying the grunge by handweeding, gathering spinach for dinner, restacking a big pile of wind-and-monkey-toppled shiitake and hiratake logs (a few biggening mushrooms as reward, to go with the spinach), at last comes the rain that has pent up there in the gray all day-- the first real Spring rain of the year, a gentle falling in drops you can barely hear (the bamboos beneath stand quiet as the dusk), all bringing to the Big Soul the same mood that calls blossoms up from the ground, makes already daffodils bounce with brightness in their green corner, sets the plum and cherry branches with tiny opals and rubies, soon to open in glories beyond price, making even spring-busy humans pause in their motions and gaze into the quiet distance in search of what must be there, now and then taking a deep breath of it all, with a look in the eyes that rises from ancient human-Spring relations, an inborn love of calm. Ah, the ancient privilege it is, to savor these moments and the food they are, to the Winter-hungered heart...

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Nothing like the stillness of a mountain rice paddy on a calm early May dawn, like this one. The paddies up here have by now been flooded, harrowed to readiness and let to wait with the infinite patience of water.

So it is that these fine days the mirroring mountainside is full of blue sky, passing clouds, now-and-then rainrings and rainbows, the mountains themselves, airy grace of hawks, curlicues of swallows and after sunset our entire universe, gliding over at a night's pace. But for now in this emerging morning it is a rare, pure stillness. You can stand here long and gaze at the sight, let it fill you with your own stillness, that brings to the front of mind a number of things that for some reason were stored way at the back...

Now and then, as so often with actual still life, along comes a slight breeze that shivers the water, scrambling the view till a new calm comes. In other nows and thens comes a crow or a hawk to walk the water, sending out perturbations with each hungry step, or up pokes a frog for a breath and a look around at the newday world, after a night of full-hearted amphibian carousing that I caught part of when I came home from the city last night, fell asleep to, woke up in mid-night to, then went back to sleep to. Like the sight of the widening rings and the feel of the reach of stillness, the sound is kin to the natural mind.

It is a good thing to have such a gift at my door for a few days every Spring at about this time, to re-mind me with the bounty that stillness is, nourishing to all around it, a truth that water knows as fully as anything can be known. Folks who have no time for such vastness might as well just stare at some kind of small screen.

Stillness begets all true nourishment, including rice.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


The Trio of Brio came over for  brief visit the other day...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Out there in the noon-plus sunshine just now getting in some of the dried laundry, one arm filling with sox and underwear, I heard the manic warbler up in one of the cedars fiddling with his old standard (he's so used to it year-to-year he just trills da-DA-da, da-DA-da until he runs out of breath) and when he got into a riffy groove he thought was good, he took off on the da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da extended riff that Beethoven sampled in Pastorale

The composer, however, went on to do a few other things with the riff in the human fashion, trilling it this way and that, filigreeing here and there to create a composition worthy of the symphonic pantheon, but in the present case the warbler just went on and on da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-ing until he was breathless, which is anticlimactic even for a Beethoven fan gathering laundry.
So when the warbler started up again, I unconsciously joined in whistling, and at the right place couldn't help but segue into Ludwig’s delightful version, which I won't romanize here - we all know it - but I tell you, the warbler suddenly stopped short, as if listening to this new and startling version of his anciently popular and splendid melody. 

When I stopped whistling, having gathered all the laundry (the mundane plays a key part in artistic creation; just ask Ludwig’s housekeeper), warbler did a chirpy thing that I can't replicate in mere alphabetics, but to my ear was the avian equivalent of “Wow! That was really something!” It led me to think that he might even be about to alter his repertoire to include a few Pow! additions by Ludwig, which would really be something!

I listened carefully as I sorted the laundry indoors. The silence was pregnant. The feathered master began... sounded great... when he hit the part where Beethoven lifts off into creation, the bird went on exactly as before, right to the end of breath. It was a bit of a letdown, but I wasn't really expecting any more than last time, when I tried to get him to cover just a couple bars of John Lee Hooker.

Like Beethoven, John Lee or any other world-class artist, vonWarbler has his own priorities.       

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Fell asleep last night wearing that pleasant smile I get when I drift into dreams in full expectation of waking to the wonderful sound of spring rain upon the rising green of the waking land, only to learn once more that I am too free with my faith in weather forecasts.

When I awoke, the whole thing, i.e., the entire environment, was just pendant out there in some kind of pressured metabalance: clouds, trees, earth, the whole shebang, combined in that deep stasis you get at certain moments of the year, that heavy silence of imminence where everything there is just feels like hangin for a while, feels good to stretch-- ahh, this is great, it all seems to say in its intricate wordlessness. 

So as the atmosphere was having some laid-back good time I did the same on my own bed, then - lacking the patience of weather - got up and had my breakfast, only a while later noticing that it must have been raining for some time! The weather had pulled another one: the deck was wet, the rain more like a whisper than the lyrical cascades implied by the weather forecast only yesterday.

One way or another, the difference between yesterday and today is always phenomenal.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


This morning when I stepped out the door onto the deck on my way to some garden work I was surprised at how bright it was out there-- the light itself was different, then I looked around the corner of the house and saw that two of the paddies across the road had been flooded since yesterday.

Like the paddies downmountain, these were now as blue as the morning sky and as bright, and as I set to planting my own plants I thought about how every year around this time the entire mountainside becomes a mirror that remains as bright as the sky for a good while after all the paddies are flooded and the mountain becomes the sky's reflection, even at night when it fills with galaxies.

This goes on until the rice is planted, when the sky of the mountain greens with growth each day as the stalks replace light with life, the mountainside turning toward imperial jade at the pace of growth, the ambiance changing as well all along the days as the light travels at vegetable speed, which is quite a switch, and stirs calming perturbations in the spirit, itself a matter of light that takes much of its nourishment from beauty and transition.

The habituated mind as well is reminded, as it steps out onto the deck blithely thinking all to be just as it was, and so comes to re-realize reality. Which is beneficial, by and large, and happens often out in the countryside, where light plays and grows, like widening rings in water.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I first saw one of these not long after I arrived in Japan. During a visit to Kyoto I was wandering through the beautiful garden at Katsura Rikyu and about to leave the main walk to follow a stone path toward a small but intriguing building when I noticed, perked right in the center of the first walkstone on the new path, an impertinent little roundish rock, bound with black hemp rope!

Who would tie up a single rock, and why? What could be more pointless than binding the neverbound and placing it so whereverly? Staring at the little granite package, I wondered at the why of what, and other zenny matters-- the utter thereness of it, its arrant placefulness-- so irrational, yet so neatly done and so... cute!

In such an elegant surrounding! Just put there, without reason I could see, so oddly ineffectual, right where I was about to place my foot! So easy to bypass, I remarked as I stood there. Who would be so careless, yet so careful as to take the time to tie a rock around with a couple of loops of rope and put a neat a knot at the top? What could be more pointless? Or less pointful?

Who ties one rock with rope? And what do they know that I don't? The mind I call mine continued to boggle. Which is the point, for a boggling mind; such a rock in such a place and time makes such a mind stop and wonder, even ponder; hopefully a thought will rise. How subtle an approach that is! No stabby bamboo fence, no wrought iron railing with spikes, no gargoyles, no big framed metal Keep Out signs or guards with pikes...

But still, who ties one rock with rope and puts it on a garden path? A traditional Japanese gardener, that's who. And there it was, before me. I hadn't known what the rock meant, yet I "knew." It did its job; it stopped me. Even though I didn't speak its language.

The stone is called a tome-ishi (lit: stop-stone).

There is more to understanding than we'll ever know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Haven't seen a monkey around these parts for months now; much of the time it's almost as though the thieves have slipped my mind, but I guess the planter part of me is always on watch, because the other morning when I was behind the house selecting a net to put over the new lettuce that one of the crows had developed a taste for, I glanced out back with an instinctual feeling and saw an elderly female monkey limping up the road alone (not a screech for miles around, so she wasn't a scout; anyway, scouts don't limp). She stopped a moment to gaze into my early garden, where, thanks to careful planning, nothing was growing that monkeys like.

She stayed hunkered there in the road, resting and engaging in some form of monkey contemplation, then began limping off toward the property across the way, where the pickings were even slimmer-- zero, to be precise. Looked like she had a bad hip, maybe age, like me; maybe sciatica like me. Her many kids were all gone off on their own; she too was an empty nester. As to the whereabouts of all her former 'husbands,' Who the hell knows? she'd likely respond, if anyone cared enough to ask.

As she hobbled away, she paused and turned to look back at my garden once more, and it seemed to someplace in my heart that she was feeling a monkey version of nostalgia, perhaps wistfully recalling all the fine dining she used to enjoy in her golden years as a wandering young mountain beauty in one of the elite troupes that patronized my establishment in those days. 

The longer she gazed, the more she seemed to be wondering what had happened to all those yesterdays-- so far gone, yet so immediate, for the past has its own gravity-- in her case, of savory summer days with their tender onions and crisp cucumbers, their crunchy potatoes and other monkey delicacies I used to have on the menu at my Fresh Organic Simian Cuisine Emporium, where every ape who was anybody used to hang out with wild abandon in the golden light that lit the skies when she was a girl... 

Was she visiting once more the dining palace of her memories that she had come all this way alone to behold before she-- not retired, but maybe there's an Old Monkeys' Tree somewhere that they go to, way up in the woods there. I've never seen such a place, but as any animal expert will tell you, there's an infinity of things we do not know about monkeys, which I can back up with 20 years of personal experience.

As we stood there looking at each other for a powerful moment, there was no way I could tell her that things had changed because of monkeys like her, that now I only grow stuff that the beasts won't touch, though "beasts" may be politically incorrect these days, I don't know; humans are getting pretty fussy about the old ways, and are whipping up respect for everybody, but anyway, given the nature of the moment I felt I had to be nice and didn't think more than once about throwing a rock, even though respect is something monkeys couldn't care less about - it's always been a power thing with them: You do this or I bite you - and though she appeared to be leaving all that behind as she entered elderhood, you can never be sure; the future, too, has its own gravity... 

Then she turned away and we both limped off into the rest of our lives.